Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

“I WAS ARRESTED! WILL MY NAME BE IN THE NEWS?”

Probably, in one form or another. There are things, though that can be done about it.

Being arrested and hauled into court for arraignment is, among other things, embarrassing. You don’t want the world to know about it and your family does not want the negative attention. Most of all, you have enough to worry about without having to be questioned or getting the “fish eye” from those with which you come in contact.

Imagine how you are going to feel when you see cameras and reporters when you enter the courtroom…and they are all there for you.

“Oh my God”, you think. “I’m toast.”

Attorney Sam’s Take On High Profile Cases

It does not matter if the criminal charges are rape, drugs or murder; you now have an additional issue you are going to have to deal with. publicity.

That issue, by the way, really needs to be dealt with immediately. In fact, it would have been better if you had started to deal with it before you came to court.

“Well, how was I going to do that? Tell the reporters to stay home that day?”

No. You should take the steps necessary to have private counsel who is experienced with high profile matters representing you immediately. That attorney could have prepared you for the realities of your arraignment and taken certain steps to make it as painless as possible. For example, the attorney could take steps to block you from cameras, particularly in cases wherein there is an identity issue.

“Well, Can’t A Court-Appointed Attorney Do That?”

They Should. The problem is that there are some good court-appointed attorneys and some bad, or inexperienced ones. Further, you could have prepared with your private attorney prior to the arraignment and had time to prepare for things such as bail arguments. You will meet the court-appointed attorney for the first time just before your arraignment.

“Can The Attorney Stop The Press From Reporting On My Story?”

Unfortunately, no. There may be motions your attorney could bring to cut down on things like the Commonwealth dribbling tidbits to the press. For example, the amount of evidence released could poison the potential jury pool in the surrounding area. You may wish to ask to move the case to another location. There may be pieces of information your attorney could get the judge to order the prosecution not release.

The court is not likely to Order the press not to report. It could, however, Order the Commonwealth not to disseminate the information in the first place

“The Commonwealth is going to reveal its evidence to the press?”

Very likely, the Commonwealth has already revealed some of its case to the press even before your arraignment. There could even have been a press conference where the local District Attorney is congratulating the police and his office for making the case against you.

“Isn’t That Prejudicial?”

It sure is. However, in large part, the Commonwealth gets away with it. The experienced criminal lawyer in such a case knows how far he can and should go to offset that prejudice.

“What Do You Mean ‘Can And Should Go’?”

There are particular court rules, which govern attorneys. An attorney ignores them at his or her peril. Further, it would not make sense for your lawyer to do something that looks good in the press today…but is likely to bury you tomorrow.

“Is There Anything You Can Tell Us In This Blog Which Might Give Us An Idea Of What To Expect?”

Of course every case is different. Further, the personalities of the judge, defense lawyer and prosecutor differ, so anticipating what will happen in any given case is impossible in terms of specifics.

In my opinion, the fact that a case has garnered publicity from the start is generally not good news for the defense. Every participant in that courtroom is going to be ultra-aware of the presence of the cameras and they are going to be very careful. While you might think that is a good thing, I remind you of an unfortunate truth which we have discussed in the past.

Nobody is likely to get criticized by being “too harsh” on a criminal defendant. Being seen as “too soft,” however is a much different story. Remember that the District Attorney is a political office, usually a stepping-stone to higher office. In other words, public sentiment is likely to effect how the prosecution handles the case, particularly in the beginning…like when bail hearings are held.

Further, nobody likes being criticized in the press, not even the judge. The judge will also be aware that, should the defendant get out on low or no bail, and commits another crime, critism will be coming forthwith.

Remember also that it is very rare for the press to give true attention to the presumption of innocence. Many times, while reporting on a case and the pending criminal charges the word “alleged” does not even appear.

“So What Can An Experienced Attorney Do For Me?”

There are certain ways in which he or she can try to get your message across, or as much as is appropriate. At the very least, your attorney can make it clear to the press that you are not convicted, yet. Further, such a lawyer should have gained a sense as to when media interest is likely to be high and when it is likely to be low. Depending on the level of media interest, more efficient work on the case may be able to be done.

The tools of the trade change a bit when the pressure of publicity is on. The experienced lawyer will know how and when to use those tools. Further, that attorney will not be taken aback by the presence of the press.

So, once again, it comes down to having an experienced attorney. Not simply someone who passed the bar 85 years ago, but someone who has experience in dealing with high profile criminal cases of the sort facing you.

In the meantime, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!

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